Opinion polls signal Spain may run into another political stalemate after the European country polled for the fourth time in four years with violence linked to Catalonia’s regional secession push and a predicted surge in nascent far-right Vox party. People queue to cast their votes inside a polling station during the general election in Barcelona, Spain, November 10, 2019. (Reuters) Polls closed in continental Spain in the country's national election, where left-wing and right-wing parties are fiercely competing to see who can form the next coalition government as exit polls showed ruling Socialists winning the polls but short of a majority.
Spain's socialists are ahead in Sunday's parliamentary election but short of a majority, and followed by Conservative PP, according to GAD opinion poll.
It suggested far-right Vox becoming a third-biggest party in the parliament.
A survey by Spain's public broadcaster released as the polls closed said the ruling Socialists are en route to win the country's second election this year but will be even further from putting together a parliamentary majority.
The RTVE survey, which polled more than 13,000 voters between October 25 and Sunday's ballot, signalled that Spain may run into another political stalemate.
In April, the Socialists won 123 seats in the parliament's lower house, 53 seats short of a majority.
The survey predicts the Socialists will lose up to nine seats.
Rise of right-wing Vox
The survey also shows that the far-right Vox party is poised to become Spain's third-biggest political force only six months after it debuted in the country's parliament.
The RTVE survey, which polled more than 13,000 voters between October 25 and Sunday's ballot, signalled that Spain may run into another political stalemate. It had a margin of error of 0.82 percentage points
The entire 350-seat lower house and 208 senators were being elected on Sunday, chosen by Spain's 37 million eligible voters. Polls in the Canary Islands remain open for another hour.
Earlier in the day, a leading leftist party pledged to help Spain's incumbent Socialists in hopes of staving off a possible right-wing coalition government that could include the far-right Vox party.
Spain's United We Can party leader Pablo Iglesias said he will offer assistance to the Socialists, led by interim Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, to form a stable leftist government.
Sunday's repeated election was called after the Socialists and United We Can, currently Spain's fourth-largest party in parliament, failed to reach an agreement following the last election in April.
“We think that combining the courage of United We Can and the experience of the Socialist party we can convert our country into a reference point for social policies,” Iglesias said on Sunday.
Spain's four main parties have focused their campaigns on how to deal with the independence push in the northeastern region of Catalonia and the feared surge of the far-right Vox party.
Polls suggest that turnout could be a factor, with voter fatigue looming. As of 6 pm, 56.8 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, down from 60.7 percent in the April 28 election.
TRT World's Francis Collings has more.
After casting his ballot in Madrid, Sanchez urged Spaniards to head to the polls, saying “it is very important that we all participate to strengthen our democracy” and that the country “has the needed stability to be able to form a government”.
The last election produced a near-record 76 percent turnout, which helped Sanchez who had mobilised left-leaning voters to oppose Vox.
But as of 2 pm (1300 GMT) turnout stood at 37.9 percent, 3.5 percentage points lower than at the same time during the April race.
Voting stations will close at 8:00 pm, with results expected a few hours later.
The election comes as Spain finds itself increasingly polarised by the Catalan crisis, which has deepened in recent weeks.
Less than a month ago, the Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to lengthy jail terms over their role in a failed 2017 independence bid, sparking days of angry street protests in Barcelona and other Catalan cities that sometimes turned violent.
More than 600 people were injured in the protests, which saw demonstrators torching barricades and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at police.
During a TV election debate, PP leader Pablo Casado called for a “real government that will put order in Catalonia”.
But the toughest line against the Catalan separatists has come from Vox leader Santiago Abascal.
“Drastic solutions are needed,” he said during his final campaign rally on Friday night in Madrid.
He repeated his pledge to end the Catalan crisis by suspending Catalonia's regional autonomy, banning separatist parties and arresting its regional president, Quim Torra, who has vowed to continue the secession drive.
The crowd responded by chanting “Torra to the dungeon.”
“I voted for the right because the most important thing is the unity of Spain and pensions,” said Rafael Garcia.
The 84-year-old did not want to say which party got his vote at a polling station in Madrid's northern Hortaleza neighbourhood where Abascal lives.
More of the same?
Vox won 24 seats in parliament in the last election in April, in the first significant showing by a far-right faction since Spain's return to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
This time Vox could double that number, polls suggest.
In recent days, Sanchez has repeatedly raised the alarm about Vox's “aggressive ultra-rightwing” policies, warning the party would drag the country back to the dark days of Franco's dictatorship.
“I thought of not voting… but then I would be upset if the right won with the far-right,” said Mari Carmen Lopez, a 25-year-old physical therapist, after casting her vote for far-left Podemos in Barcelona.
Spain has been caught in political paralysis since the election of December 2015 when Podemos and business-friendly Ciudadanos entered parliament.
That put an end to decades of dominance of the two main parties, the PP and the Socialists, in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy.
But there is a risk Sunday's vote will only prolong the agony.
With no single party able to secure the required 176 seats for a majority, the Socialists are likely to opt for a minority government, ING analyst Steven Trypsteen said.
“Voting intentions appear to have changed since the April election. But these changes will not make it easier to form a government,” he added.
Source: TRTWorld and agencies
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